Posts Tagged With: storytelling

Just another story…

“What are stories but a way of helping us see the world and each other better.”

I heard this in one of Pavi’s talk on giftivism and wondering at the simplicity yet the deep meaning of it 🙂

I was part of one such story telling session (it was actually a class on upnishads at Shivananda ashram). When I was going for the class, I was a little apprehensive. I thought it will all be in Sanskrit and most is going to go over my head! But I still went because a friend had asked me to, and I can’t thank him enough. 🙂 And it’s so wonderful that this is the story that started my journey of travelling solo in the mountains and afterwards…

Gopi ji (the Vedanta professor) was talking on renunciation. And he said nothing but share this beautiful story.

Once upon a time there was a kingdom which had a unique way of choosing its king. The ministers will let go of the royal elephant with a garland in the kingdom. The person to whomsoever the elephant puts the garland on is chosen to be the next king. It is taken to be a divine decision by all in the kingdom. Continue reading

Categories: around us, Family, Travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Writings from the past

Look I found my mother’s old diary!

I was inspired to write this post after reading Michelle’s Pieces of the Past. They have this beautiful bed and breakfast in Virginia, steeped in history. And they keep adding to that history. I always love her antique shopping pictures especially the tea-sets!

My find is not as exciting as Michelle’s who found letters that are more than 100 years old. But I found my mother’s old notebook :). I don’t know how old it is; and mummy also doesn’t remember when she wrote that but on page there is a number – 8.9.84 – which I assume is a date, so the notebook is 28 years old.

Yellowed pages, torn edges, dog corners… I opened the notebook with such curiosity as if I’m going to unravel some mystery or learn something new about my mom :). What excited me most is that it has recipes! 🙂 There are recipes like Apple Butter, Mango Jam, Orange Squash, Almond Syrup, Tomato Ketchup… More inspiration for My Weekend Kitchen! Mummy didn’t even remember she had a notebook like this until I showed it to her…actually because of the recipes, she might have lent it to my maasi and it was she who gave me this notebook during my last trip to Delhi.

Mango Jam, Orange Squash and many more…

Apart from recipe what caught my interest were the last few pages where she has done her household accounts..

Monthly household accounts
100 School fees; 100 Bank; 200 Ghar ka Samaan; 162.50 Milk; 45 Dance; 15 Taxi

I’m sure since taxi was a luxury it got mentioned in the monthly accounts and the bus fares did not.. Also I learned that didi used to go for some dance classes (Since I was only 3 at that time, I realized the fee must be for didi). At one place it’s also written ‘Mrs Pareek 25 Rs; Sawairam 14 Rs’ Maybe I should remind her that she has to either take from or give back this amount to them!

With our generation usually maintaining everything in e-documents, I really feel sad that our children will not have the pleasure of finding and going through diaries of their parents that have yellowed with time. That they would actually be saying ‘Look I found my mother’s old blog’!

If you liked this post, you might also want to read my other experiences of discovering old things 🙂

-When I discovered my Grandad’s old journal and learnt that he wrote shayari!

-On ‘actually’ ‘physically’ writing something. When was the last time you wrote at length on a real piece of paper?

Categories: digital living, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Endless stories on Indian Railways

I love traveling by train and particularly Indian Railways. Love meeting strangers; sharing a few hours of my life with them, knowing well that I won’t meet them again. Whenever I travel alone, I always look forward to see whom will I be sitting next to.  I think everyone has at least one unforgettable memory of the Indian Railways. Mine being the fairly recent interaction with a number of people, things, platforms etc that make up the institution called Indian Railways.

During a trip to Bombay, I narrated my whole story of how it took me 11 hours to cover 60 kms by train and all the adventures in between; to Anu and Rane. One story led to another and we realised that just between the 3 of us we had some 10 incidents related to rail journeys to tell. Apart from my Chalo Dilli experience; there was the 1st when I travelled 1st class from Delhi to Kolkata in Duronto and how both me and Sikander were truly impressed by the hospitality and class of the staff on board. No air travel can come close to the luxuries of railway 1st class!

Then there was this story that my dad used to tell so often –

“When I was a MR, I had to change trains at Bandikui station late at night and once I had a strange encounter, which I still sometime question if it really happened or was my imagination. It was very late at night; in fact it would be more correct to call it was very early in the morning. I was sitting on a bench, smoking my Wills and waiting for my train; when I saw this old man with a stick and blanket on his head come hobbling towards my way. He stopped in front of him and said if I have a light. And the moment I lit the matchstick and took it towards his face to light his cigarette all I saw was blankness”

For a long long time I thought this story to be true until I read Ruskin Bond’s horror stories! 😮

Rane told about an incident where the up and down Geetanjali express used to meet at an intermediate station and that too on opposite platforms. One can imagine the confusion that would create. Passengers boarding from that station were always double checking if they boarded the right train!

Anu was telling about an incident when she and her mother had to board a train with departure time 12:05am. When they boarded the realised the seat was already taken. Now it’s not very uncommon that 2 passengers have been given the same berth so they went to check with the TT where they discovered that they were a day late for the train!

We both laughed at recounting our 1st experience with Mumbai local trains. We were a group of 10 freshers going from IIT to Bandra which meant changing train at Dadar. The local train stops for exactly 2 seconds on each stop and we realised Richa alone couldn’t board the train! It was the time when cell phones were still a luxury and definitely not something that college students would posses. The rest of us in the train just kept wondering – should we get down at the next station and go back to kanjurmarg; what if she left by the time we got back? should we go to Dadar and wait for her there?

One of my friend met his wife on a train journey! Isn’t that romantic? But I don’t think I should tell their story here.. but I was very enchanted when I heard it 🙂

The stories kept on going for the rest of the day…

So when I came across this book – “The Penguin book of Indian Railway stories” edited by Ruskin Bond, I couldn’t help but buy it! It meant more railway stories! And some from the bygone era –the era of the steam engines; the era of the Raj. I’ve just embarked on this train of memories and I don’t want the journey to end soon.


These were some of my stories while traveling on trains.. do you have one to share?

Categories: Books, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Kindness in Strange Quarters – Encounter with an Auto Walla!

I should say it upfront! I think this post is fairly long.. but I do hope you will have the time to read it through 🙂 I didn’t want to cut anything from the post after I re-read it to shorten it a little 😮

Long time back when I had attended a workshop on storytelling as a means of communication in development, I was amazed to see how most participants when asked to choose and tell a real story (with a message in the end), picked up a story where an act of kindness from a stranger had led them to question their distrust on strangers.

Sometime ago when I went to Gandhi Ashram, I met these young enthusiasts who have been helping people with no expectation of return and living lives on the principles of pay-it-forward or the gift economy. It brought forth so many random acts of kindness… kindness to strangers… an effort to renew our trust on each other, a belief that not everybody out there is going to cheat us.

As kids we used to trust people so easily. Just yesterday I was telling my friends how me and my sister used to walk back home for 2 kms (after a 14 kms bus ride) from school in scorching heat and we would wave at strangers, we would stop at anyone’s home and ask for water or just shade, we used to take lift from strangers without thinking twice. But today every mother will warn her children to be careful of strangers, not to talk to them, not to take anything to eat/drink from them. And rightly so, I’m not saying they are wrong. This caution is off course stemmed from the various child abuse/ abduction stories that get highlighted in media and are told over and over again. One story is repeatedly used to magnify our fears manifolds.

I think I’m digressing too far… What I wanted to say was we need to share more and more ‘good’ stories… We need to remind ourselves that the world is after all not such a bad place, that we don’t need to keep looking for monsters under our bed! The unknown is not always dangerous… Off course caution is necessary but distrust is not.

I shared one such story of how I was moved by kindness from Indian railway catering staff when I boarded the wrong train at Pune station. Yesterday a friend of mine, Prarthana, shared her own experience of kindness from strangers on email and I thought it needs to be told further on. We all take it for granted that the auto-wallas are out to cheat us.. But this one experience shows that’s not the case always! Below is her encounter with an auto-walla in Bangalore:

Today when I left from Adugodi at 7.15 pm (a difficult time to get auto:)) here comes an auto whom I ask “Old Airport Road starting Sir” and I get a reply after a pause of many seconds… “Madam naanu nimge Bidtini adre Madam bejar padako bedi naanu illi swalpa munde hogi ondu parcel collect mada beku, bekandre U turn tagondu illindane meter start madtini”; meaning “Madam I would drop you but if you don’t mind I need to collect a parcel a little further on this road, I would start meter once we take U turn and cross this place”. I readily agreed.

He collected his parcel and appreciated the fact that I didn’t say No and I wasn’t rude like many other customers he would get 🙂 On our way we shared our stories in short. I got introduced to Mr. Murali, who owns this auto, owns a small site and a small house has supported many of his brother and is loking forward for good education for his 2 boys studying in 5th and 7th Grade, does good to his best in life and very important he doesn’t charge a single extra penny from his customer except when he has to go in outskirts where he would not get any customer in return, he stressed saying his meter fare too is accurate:)…

When I reached my destination I realised that I had just missed my bus…. He slowed down and asked me “Madam how much is the meter reading?” I said “Rs 57 Sir”. It was his reply that took me by surprise… “Madam I am switching the meter off here, I am anyway going further to wish a good friend of mine for his Birthday and I would anyway go with my auto empty. So I will drop you to bus stop close by for no extra charge” and started moving further. I had no words….I was feeling so privileged and happy to see his kindness. He dropped me at the bus stop, I asked him how much to pay, he saw chart and new rate applied to Rs 57 was some Rs 75. He said I would want to stick to my commitment Maam, so pay me Rs 75:) I was very much moved by his act of helping and kindness and paid him Rs 80 and 2 Alpenliebe chocolates I had in my bag and lots of heartfelt thanks to show my gratitude and in turn I also got a lot of thanks and his contact no.:) that I didn’t want to miss saving in my phone book!!!

Not all Auto drivers are bad; there are many good people too!!! We crib about few asking more money but please appreciate good ones 🙂

Prarthana is an avid volunteer with a number of NGOs in Bangalore. She is also running the TCS world 10K marathon to raise funds for the NGOs she supports. Check out her story here:

 Have you ever been humbled by kindness from a stranger? I would love to hear your experience!

Image credits:

Categories: around us | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Storytelling for Change

It’s been about 2 months since the World Youth Congress in Istanbul, but life has been fairly hectic since then and though I wrote this post during the congress itself on my phone, I never got down to actually posting it.

Most facilitators at the WYC had their own way of introductions in each workshop and this one was no different. Our facilitator, Will, from New Zealand, taught us the Maori form of greeting: hongi.

Will runs an organization in NZ, which is involved in raising awareness about development issues in schools and colleges. One of the challenges they face is: How do you go into a group and make them listen to something you believe in and leave them, never to see them again, and still make sure they remember the message?

That is where story telling comes in….

We tell stories all the time. At the dinner table, in the bus, over phone.. Every conversation is a story. Story telling is easy, it is natural and it makes the audience relate to you. The workshop focused on how we should do storytelling with a purpose. Things to keep in mind like bringing true and personal (as far as possible) stories, ending with a punch line (key message) which does not go like “and the moral of the story is …”, voice modulation, expressions, gestures etcetera.  One very important point that Will mentioned was that it is absolutely necessary for the stories to be true. For the stories to act as springboards, motivating others for good, you need to tell them what someone else has actually done. First express your key message in one line then look for a personal story to highlight the point, if you can’t find a personal story then go for story of a well known person. If the message is important it should have a precedent, a fictional story should be your last resort.

That was the technical part to the workshop, but what I found most interesting was the practical exercise at the end. We were all divided into groups of 5-6 and each of us had to tell a story to the group, about an incident that changed us in some way or had an influence on us and had to have a key message in the end. My group had 5 people and 4 out of 5 stories we told ended with a message of letting our guards down and trust strangers. Each story was on how an act of kindness by a stranger moved us and made us question our general distrust on strangers, which is mostly fueled by the stories we have heard from others. That left me wondering if the world really is so unsafe or is it just our fears that are put under a magnifying glass made of all the horror stories we hear in media or from a friend about what happened to his friend’s friend. I’m not denying that they aren’t true stories but maybe we need more of the good stories to be told. One tragedy outnumbers 99 acts of solidarity just like ‘one dirty fish spoils the entire pond’. This makes it even more important to have as many as good stories to be told and narrated so that we don’t lose faith in each other.

Categories: around us | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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